An Post has taken the top spot in a ranking of the most reputable companies and organisations in Ireland, after the State-owned postal services provider emerged from the Covid-19 crisis with its standing among the public strengthened.
The Irish League of Credit Unions was ranked second and Lidl third in the RepTrak 2022 study published by The Reputations Agency, while the Football Association of Ireland was again ranked bottom of the 100 organisations examined.
Boots Ireland and tourism agency Fáilte Ireland were fourth and fifth respectively, while the top 10 was completed by Lidl's rival Aldi, Bord Bia, Samsung, Toyota and the Blackrock Clinic.
The RepTrak survey, which tracks perceptions of the largest, most familiar and most important organisations in the State, surveyed more than 6,500 people between January 3rd and March 14th, a time that coincided with a worsening cost-of-living crisis, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and ongoing pandemic fallout.
"Our study demonstrates that those organisations that can show that at their core they exist for the betterment of society will win in the reputation stakes. This is evident with this year's winner, An Post," said Niamh Boyle, managing director of The Reputations Agency.
An Post was ranked third in the 2021 edition and was seventh in 2020.
Ms Boyle said it was notable that when people were asked if they would work for an organisation if given the opportunity, An Post came fifth behind four multinationals – Google, Pfizer, Samsung and Microsoft.
In December, the organisation became the first major employer to announce it had closed its gender pay gap for hourly pay.
Debbie Byrne, managing director of retail for An Post, said it was "proud" to be named Ireland's most reputable organisation. "We have been on a transformation journey to become a sustainable, profitable business," she said.
Elsewhere, however, the study found that evidence of a “Covid bounce” in reputations has subsided, with 35 organisations experiencing a fall in their reputation and just six of the top 100 receiving an overall “excellent” score.
The retail food sector – which enjoyed a strong uplift in its reputation at the outset of the Covid-19 crisis – and the food and beverage sector both saw declines in their average reputation scores, reflecting the impact of inflation on consumer’s pockets.
“I think people thought, ‘we’re just coming out of Covid, and we’ve got to deal with this now,’” said Ms Boyle.
The energy retail sector saw the most significant decline in reputation, with consumers perceiving that price hikes were not completely justified, notwithstanding the global increase in wholesale energy costs.
Ms Boyle said energy suppliers also needed to “build a stronger narrative” to show what they are doing to reduce carbon emissions and protect the most vulnerable. “There is a big communications job there.”
By contrast, the automotive sector has been able to communicate its efforts to reduce emissions and make the transition to electric vehicles, making it the best-scoring sector overall. Toyota's ninth position was followed by Volkswagen in 25th and BMW in 27th.
The Irish Times was the highest-ranked media organisation in 57th spot and was deemed the most “insightful” of all organisations. While the communications media sector scored highly on this metric, the sector posted the lowest average overall scores.
Fintech company Revolut was 30th in the list, well ahead of more established banking rivals while, among technology giants, Google was 45th, Microsoft 46th and Apple 69th, but Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, was 98th.
The Reputations Agency, which is part of the Wunderman Thompson Group, said the conduct of organisations – which it defined as people's belief in whether they are fair, ethical, open and transparent – was the biggest driver of reputation, overtaking products and services for just the second time in the study's 13-year history.
It attributed this to the legacy of the last recession and financial bailout as well as the tendency of Irish consumers to have higher expectations of organisational conduct than their global counterparts.
Ms Boyle said organisations’ conduct scores could fall for reasons including having persistently poor service for an essential utility, dual-pricing whereby existing customers know they are being charged more than new ones, the perception that an organisation is treating its workforce or suppliers badly, companies making “mega-profits” and awarding bumper pay packages to chief executives at a time when prices are rising, and concerns about behaviour towards vulnerable customers.
“Right now, charging a premium price for an essential item that every household needs is seen to be poor conduct,” she said, with consumers also becoming “more vocal” about the standards they wish to see.